We've just come back from my first time in Paris. Needless to say I'm in love with the city, there was so much I liked that it's hard to know where to begin but here are 5 favourites to start with...
1. Staying in a cute Parisian apartment. One thing I’ve learnt on my travels is that if I can’t stay in a lovely hotel I’ll stay in a rented apartment and live like a local! I can’t begin to describe how much more pleasant it was to pick up croissants and pan aux chocolat from the bakery below rather than the hotel buffet.
2. A cliché but… the Eiffel Tower. Not on top of it – 1.5 hours is just too long to queue for lazy old moi. However, we passed a happy hour or so sat on a grassy verge (unexplicably free of other people – I guess they were all queueing) gazing at the lit up tower by night. At 11pm the sparkly light show began, and I couldn’t help but shed a little tear – then a storm brewed up and we had to run off into a little café for shelter just like in the movies!
3. The supermarkets. Sorry to say it but Spain’s supermarkets can be somewhat limited (unless you go to the Corte Inglés)… We had a field day browsing the aisles of goodies both French and stuff that I miss from back home… rillete, maple syrup, buttery biscuits, stinky stinky cheeses, smoked mackerel, North African spices, red wine… and best of all the beauty counter – not for fancy international names like Dior (which you can easily pick up here) but the cheaper local brands that feel and smell divine but won’t break the bank balance (Le Petit Olivier's fair trade shea butter body lotion was a particular favourite). Also, check out this Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site for her tips on French pharmacy brands. Wanting to extend our Paris experience beyond the 5 day break we brought along an extra case to fill with cheeses to take home – said suitcase is still on the balcony being aired – as despite double wrapping all the munsters and camamberts the smell still steeped through – just glad we didn’t put any clothes in there!
4. Montmartre. A hilly district in the north of Paris with a slightly boho villagey feel – little lanes and streets full of boutiques, delicatessens, pavement cafes and the setting for the film Amelie – need I say more :-) See fruit stall above)
5. Seeking out the best views – here are the best we found (apart from Sacre Coeur in Montmartre) in no particular order: 1) On top of the Galeries Lafayette department store – I was also stunned by the amazing stained glass cupola seen from inside (photo below). 2) On top of the slightly posher Printemps department store next door. 3) On top of the Pompidou centre (above) – if you want to go up without going into the gallery at the front of the building to the left you’ll see a security guy sat by a lift – tell him you’re going to the café and he’ll unlock it for you – go up to the 6th floor to enjoy the view.
5 days really wasn’t enough to even begin to scratch the surface of Paris, but as it’s next door there’s really no excuse not to go back soon - a driving tour round France next summer perhaps?!